Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics and Professional Practices

Purpose: The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Code of Ethics and Professional Practices serves to promote: (1) a truthful approach to genealogy, family history, and local history; (2) the trust and security of genealogical consumers; and (3) careful and respectful treatment of records, repositories and their staffs, other professionals, and genealogical organizations and associations.

Consistent with these purposes, I agree to:

  1. Present research results and opinions in a clear, well-organized manner;
  2. Refrain from withholding, suppressing, or knowingly misquoting or misinterpreting sources or data;
  3. Report appropriately qualified genealogical conclusions in writing based on the weight of the evidence with fully and accurately cited sources;
  4. Represent my abilities, services, and credentials honestly, avoiding the use of misleading or exaggerated statements;
  5. Engage in sufficient continuing education to maintain competence and comply with applicable requirements;
  6. Prepare and abide by written agreements regarding applicable project scope, fees, charges, payment structures, and deliverables without concealment or misrepresentation;
  7. Disclose potential conflicts of interest;
  8. Maintain confidentiality of client communications and research, except as permitted in writing by the client or required by court or professional disciplinary proceedings;
  9. Treat information concerning living people with appropriate discretion;
  10. Refrain from violating or encouraging others to violate laws or regulations concerning copyright, rights to privacy, business practices, or other pertinent subjects;
  11. Refrain from mutilating, rearranging, or removing from their proper custodians printed, original, microfilmed, or electronic records;
  12. Give proper credit to the work of others and refrain from plagiarism;
  13. Refrain from soliciting established clients of another researcher through denigration, violation of laws or regulations, or other improper means;
  14. Refrain from behaviors or statements that malign or are maliciously calculated to injure the profession; individual genealogists; genealogical associations, programs, or educational organizations; or the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Why the Code?

The Association of Professional Genealogists has a responsibility to serve both its diverse membership and the genealogical client community.

The significance of ethics to APG and its members is reflected in the manner in which complaints are processed and resolved.

When a violation of this Code is alleged, it will be reviewed and investigated if APG’s Professional Review Committee determines it meets criteria for such action.

The complaint and disciplinary procedures accomplish five things:

  • Maintain a high professional standard
  • Increase consumer confidence
  • Provide a fair process for handling of complaints against members
  • Identify members who will benefit from additional professional development
  • Identify those committing serious violations of the Code of Ethics

Who can file a complaint?

  • Clients who believe an APG member has not performed as expected or has failed to complete a genealogical service (research report, seminar, etc.). The individual must have been a member of APG at the time the agreement was made. A client is any individual who has an agreement in writing (e.g. letters, emails, or formal contracts) with an APG member.
  • The APG Board or the Executive Committee when other claimed violations of the APG Code of Ethics are suspected.

What we won’t review

  • Allegations concerning verbal agreements between a member and another party. There must be something in writing (contract, email, etc.) that demonstrates the scope of the agreement.
  • Allegations against a member for non-genealogical business agreements such as non-payment of rents or other general business not directly related to genealogical business.
  • Allegations of a personal nature not related to genealogical activity.
  • Allegations of activity that occurred more than 12 months prior to the date of the complaint. The last contact between the two sides to the complaint should be no more than twelve (12) months prior to the complaint filing date.
  • Allegations against an individual based solely on his/her position in a corporation unless the complainant can show that the alleged problem is directly attributable to the action of the member.

If you believe an APG member has violated this code

  • Contact the office of the Executive Director (ED) by submitting the online Complaint Form. You will then receive instructions for submitting evidence in support of your claim, including copies of written agreements, records of payment, emails or other correspondence, and any other items that will help the Professional Review Committee (PRC) understand your complaint against the member.
  • The ED will convey the materials to the PRC who will determine whether the matter meets the criteria required for a review.
  • The ED will advise the complainant whether or not the PRC accepts the issue for formal review. At this point the member will be advised of your complaint and will be asked to respond through the ED to the PRC.

What to Expect

The investigation may

  • Come down in favor of the complainant and may include disciplinary action and/or how the member can rectify the situation.
  • Come down in favor of the member and set out why the complaint will not be upheld.
  • Reach no conclusion due to lack of concrete evidence or other extenuating circumstances.


  • All complaints brought to the APG Professional Review Committee are considered confidential. All parties (complainant, member, and APG’s PRC and Executive Committee) are expected to not disclose any details of this complaint or its outcome with anyone other than through APG’s Executive Director.

Code of Ethics

Each individual seeking certification signs the Genealogist’s Code, a pledge to act in every way to protect the public, clients (whether paying or pro bono), and the profession.

To protect the public

I will not publish or publicize as a fact anything I know to be false, doubtful or unproved; nor will I be a party, directly or indirectly, to such action by others.

I will identify my sources for all information and cite only those I have personally used.

I will quote sources precisely, avoiding any alterations that I do not clearly identify as editorial interpretations.

I will present the purpose, practice, scope, and possibilities of genealogical research within a realistic framework.

I will delineate my abilities, publications, and/or fees in a true and realistic fashion.

I will keep confidential any personal or genealogical information disclosed to me, except to the extent I receive consent to share.

To protect the client (paying or pro bono)

I will reveal to the client any personal or financial interests that might compromise my professional obligations.

I will undertake paid research commissions only after a clear agreement as to scope and fee.

I will, to the best of my abilities, address my research to the issue raised by the client and report to that question.

I will seek from the client all prior information and documentation related to the research and will not knowingly repeat the work as billable hours without explanation as to good cause.

I will furnish only facts I can substantiate with adequate documentation; and I will not withhold any data necessary for the client’s purpose.

If the research question involves analysis of data in order to establish a genealogical relationship or identity, I will report that the conclusions are based on the weight of the available evidence and that absolute proof of genealogical relationships is usually not possible.

If I cannot resolve a research problem within the limitations of time or budget established by contract, I will explain the reasons why.

If other feasible avenues are available, I will suggest them; but I will not misrepresent the possibilities of additional research.

I will return any advance payment that exceeds the hours and expenses incurred.

I will not publish or circulate research or reports to which a client or colleague has a proprietary right, without that person’s written consent; I will observe these rights, whether my report was made directly to the client or to an employer or agent.

To protect the profession

I will act, speak, and write in a manner I believe to be in the best interests of the profession and scholarship of genealogy.

I will participate in exposing genealogical fraud; but I will not otherwise knowingly injure or attempt to injure the reputation, prospects, or practice of another genealogist.

I will not attempt to supplant another genealogist already employed by a client or agency. I will substitute for another researcher only with specific, written consent of and instructions provided by the client or agency.

I will not represent as my own the work of another. This includes works that are copyrighted, in the public domain, or unpublished. This pledge includes reports, lecture materials, audio/visual tapes, compiled records, and authored essays.

I will not reproduce for public dissemination, in an oral or written fashion, the work of another genealogist, writer, or lecturer without that person’s written consent. In citing another’s work, I will give proper credit.

To protect people who provide DNA samples

When seeking data from a living person for genealogical research purposes, I will explain how I would use and share the data and the benefits of that use and sharing.

I will explain risks and consequences, such as uncovering unanticipated relatives, medical implications, unexpected ethnic backgrounds, and intentional misinformation about such situations.

I will explain options for openness and privacy and how other researchers could or could not access the data.
I will explain there are never any guarantees of complete anonymity and privacy.

After providing that information, I will request and comply with the signed consent, freely given by the person providing the DNA sample or that person’s guardian or legal representative.